WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Six die in Labor Day weekend accidents
Six people died in Labor Day Weekend traffic crashes in Wisconsin -- four less than a year ago. However, the state DOT said traffic deaths in August were higher than the same month of last year, as well as the average for the past five Augusts. According to preliminary figures, 50 people died in state crashes last month -- four more than the previous August, and seven more than the five-year average. No one knows why fatalities went up last month, but dry-and-warmer weather and falling gas prices may have had something to do with it. For the year as a whole, 320 traffic deaths were recorded in the Badger State from January-through-August. That's 28 fewer than a year ago, and 44 fewer than the five-year norm for the month.
State prison officials have delayed a plan to have guards work 12-hour shifts at the Redgranite prison in Waushara County. Guards at another lockup at Prairie du Chien have worked 12-hour shifts instead of eight hours since January, to see if overtime costs can be reduced. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obtained a memo in which adult institutions' administrator Cathy Jess said it was decided not to expand to a 12-hour schedule for now at Redgranite. She said the agency needs a full year of data from Prairie du Chien to determine the budget impact -- and the 12-hour days will continue at that site through next year at the earliest. Prairie du Chien staffers work three days one week, and four the next. That allows for some overtime, but officials apparently believe it could cut OT on an overall basis. That's because work-shifts could be covered more efficiently, amid vacancies that run from about six-to-nine percent at both institutions.
The chair of the Democratic National Committee today slammed Governor Scott Walker's record on women's issues. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and fellow U.S. House Democrat Gwen Moore of Milwauk,ee were among those appearing at a round-table discussion at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. Wasserman Schultz said the Republican Walker has, in her words, "given women the back of his hand." She attacked the governor's opposition to raising the minimum wage, and the GOP's tightening of abortion rules. The Florida House Democrat also criticized Walker for agreeing to stop letting victims of job discrimination seek damages in state courts -- forcing them to use the more expensive federal court system. Wasserman Schultz called the Wisconsin governor's race a "major race" for Democrats.
U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Madison has asked the federal government to give Wisconsinites dropped from BadgerCare a second chance to sign up for Obamacare. Sixty-three thousand adults above the poverty line lost their BadgerCare as part of the state's response to the Affordable Care Act. They were expected to enroll in private plans under Obamacare, but 38,000 had not done so. A few weeks ago, Baldwin demanded that Governor Scott Walker find out what happened to those people. In a letter to federal health officials, Baldwin said the Republican Walker's plan posed "severe consequences." She said it's urgent that the federal government help vulnerable residents get the full benefits of Obamacare by granting the 38,000 a special enrollment period. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are not commenting on Baldwin's request. Walker said it was obvious that some of those losing BadgerCare chose other options -- such as health plans through employers. He said the call for a special enrollment is the result of "somebody looking for a problem that doesn't exist."
Indiana's governor says he does not buy a Wisconsin group's claim that a veterans' tribute with a large cross amounts to a government endorsement of religion. Governor Mike Pence says he fully supports a decision by his state's DNR to put a donated sculpture on display at Whitewater Memorial State Park in eastern Indiana. Officials say it's designed to honor local World War Two veterans. The Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison says the display promotes Christianity. Foundation attorney Rebecca Markert says it will send a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers. The wood sculpture carving depicts a bald eagle above a sign which reads, "All gave some -- Some gave all." It also has a 14-inch-tall white cross at the base.
The numbers of abortions in Wisconsin have dropped for the fourth straight year, and nine-of-the-last-ten. The state Health Services department said today that 6,521 state residents had abortions last year. That's 171 fewer than the previous year, and about two-thousand less than the 8,500 abortions Wisconsin had in 2009. Officials said 215 girls under-18 had abortions in the Badger State a year ago. Adults consented in 186 of those cases. Seventeen had approvals by judges to waive consent requirements. Twelve emancipated minors also had abortions.
It's been two years since the Episcopal Church has allowed same-sex marriages to be blessed. Now, the bishop of the southeast Wisconsin diocese has opened the door to such unions. Milwaukee Bishop Steven Miller says the blessing-rites will be given only to couples whose marriages have been approved on a civil basis -- and only at a church in which the governing vestry agrees to its usage. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the new decision appears to be a compromise between clergy who've wanted the option, and Miller who has opposed the national policy as being deficient. Kevin Carroll, who heads the bishop's standing advisory committee, says people on both sides will not like Miller's decision. However, he says most clergy are relieved to provide something for same-sex couples who want their marriages sanctioned by the church.
Wisconsin's largest airport opened a newly-renovated baggage claim area today. Milwaukee's Mitchell International has just completed the first phase of a 45-million dollar project. It includes new baggage carousels, airline service desks, restrooms, flooring, and improved sky-lighting. Carousels 1-and-2 at Mitchell were renovated. Two others are being shut down this week so they can be replaced. A final carousel will follow suit next year. Special traffic patterns during the project will continue. The current baggage claims roadway at Mitchell is only open to shuttles and buses. Airport officials say the work is being staggered to keep passenger traffic flowing as normally as possible. The baggage area is among the last parts of Mitchell to be modernized in recent years. Some of the equipment has not been replaced since 1955. Milwaukee County owns the airport, and it's borrowing $60-million to cover the costs of the renovations.
Give that robot a contract. That's what Brewer fans might say, after a robot made by high school students throws out the first pitch at Saturday night's Milwaukee-Saint Louis game at Miller Park. Twenty-six members of the robotics team at Glendale Nicolet High School made the robot, called "Robot Yount." It's supposed to throw a perfectly-calibrated 65-mile-an-hour pitch right over the plate. Nicolet teacher Adam Thiel says it throws a strong sinker -- although the pitch is not nearly as fast as the 100-mile-an-hour heaters that some guys throw. Thiel started Nicolet's robotics program five years ago. There are now about 30 schools throughout Wisconsin that have robotics teams.
Wisconsin's propane industry does not expect the kinds of shortages we saw last winter -- when folks struggled to heat their homes as prices skyrocketed. Chris Tews, president of the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association, says both customers and their dealers are being more pro-active. He says customers are filling their tanks earlier, to take advantage of lower prices. Suppliers, meanwhile, are increasing their storage capacities to make sure they don't run out. Appleton supplier Garrow Oil added enough tanks to store about 360,000 gallons of propane -- double their storage capacity from a year ago. Tews told WBAY-TV in Green Bay that the industry learned a lot from last winter -- when shippers could not get propane quickly enough to the areas where it was needed. The coldest temperatures in years were partially to blame for the shortage -- along with a closed pipeline, and a heavy demand by farmers to use the fuel to dry their grain.
Two men who allegedly delivered wholesale marijuana to Wisconsin were arrested on their way home to Oregon. Sheriff's officers said they stopped a car for a traffic violation last Saturday on Interstate-80 near Lincoln Nebraska -- and they found $48,000 dollars and 20 grams of pot. A deputy reported smelling marijuana in the vehicle, and one of the suspects admitted delivering the Wisconsin drug sales revenues back to Oregon. The Lincoln Journal-Star said the two men, ages 25 and 20, were taken to jail for possessing drug money. There was no immediate word on whether they've been charged.